Plant Sciences Institute names nine faculty to second cohort

By Paula Van Brocklin, Office of the Vice President for Research

After reviewing dozens of applications, Iowa State University’s Plant Sciences Institute (PSI) has named nine faculty members to the second cohort of PSI Faculty Scholars. Faculty selected represent three of the university’s eight colleges – Agriculture and Life Sciences, Engineering, and Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The PSI Scholars program identifies, supports and empowers talented Iowa State researchers who have the potential to significantly contribute to the complex and rapidly emerging discipline of predictive phenomics. PSI Scholars build upon their existing strong funding and publication track records to enhance ISU’s research prominence in the plant sciences. Recipients receive $75,000 of research funding per year for up to three years.

Eligibility is limited to ISU faculty in a tenure-track position of assistant professor or higher.

The 2018 PSI Faculty Scholars are:

Sotirios Archontoulis, assistant professor, agronomy
Project summary: Enhance and deploy crop modeling to identify plant traits worthy of genetic research due to their impact on crop production systems, and predict and explain how environmental variables and management practices influence plant traits and expression of phenotypes in the field.

Michael Castellano, associate professor, agronomy
Project summary: Use experiments, innovative sensing technologies and process-based modeling to observe, predict and explain how variation in resource availability affects phenotype, and what phenotypes perform best in particular combinations of environment and management.

Guiping Hu, associate professor, industrial and manufacturing systems engineering
Project summary: Develop a system engineering approach to analyze and advance plant breeding through optimized management and planning.

Peng Liu, associate professor, statistics
Project summary: Develop novel and robust statistical methods for integrative analysis of different “omics” data to help establish a foundational, systems-level understanding of interactions between plants, microbes and environmental factors.

Fernando Miguez, associate professor, agronomy
Project summary: Develop physiologically-robust mathematical models and combine them with computationally intensive statistical methods to improve prediction of crop performance.

Soumik Sarkar, assistant professor, mechanical engineering
Project summary: Develop advanced spatiotemporal data analytics and information fusion techniques to solve phenomics problems in plant pathology and plant breeding, and enable smart farming practices.

Asheesh (Danny) Singh, associate professor, agronomy
Project summary: Focus on integrating phenomics and genomics approaches into cultivar development and breeding.

Justin Walley, assistant professor, plant pathology and microbiology
Project summary: Identify genetic factors that regulate resistance of corn to Northern Corn Leaf Blight (NLB) to construct a predicative model of disease resistance.

Bing Yang, associate professor, genetics, development and cell biology
Project summary: Develop and use genome editing tools to understand gene function and trait discovery, and improve crops by engineering beneficial traits in crop plants.

“We’re excited to welcome these nine talented ISU faculty members to the community of PSI Scholars that is enhancing our understanding of crop biology via the application of crop modeling, process optimization, new sensor technologies and data analytics,” said Patrick Schnable, director of the Plant Sciences Institute.